Stephen Rubin, the well-known chairman of the Pentland Group, was the big honoree at annual Drapers Footwear Awards bestowed by the British trade magazine on May 8. He received the lifetime achievement award for his successful career in the footwear industry. In his acceptance speech to the hundreds of industry insiders assembled at the London Hilton, Rubin urged the footwear market to nurture its talent and continue to innovate.
Pentland Group is the owner of such brands as Speedo, Ellesse and Berghaus, and has the global license for Lacoste and Ted Baker footwear. It is also has a controlling interest in JD Sports Fashion, a British group of sports and fashion retail chains that has just now acquired Chausport, a French chain of 78 athletic footwear shops (story in Sporting Goods Intelligence Europe).
Rubin joined his parents’ footwear business, called at the time the Liverpool Shoe Company, in 1932. The business was listed on the stock exchange in 1964 and went private again in 1999. He was named chairman in 1969, and the company became Pentland Group in 1973.
Under his leadership, Pentland, which is now run by his son Andy Rubin, gradually shifted its focus from that of a trading group specializing in sourcing shoes from the Far East – it had a big joint venture in Hong Kong with Eegim, Asco, which was subsequently dissolved – to an owner and licensee of sports and fashion brands. His example has been followed by other traders in the U.K. and on the Continent.
Some of the growth was the result of shrewd investments. Stephen Rubin, who has also been called Sir Sneaker, made his biggest move in 1981, when he acquired Reebok. By the time he resold Pentland’s shares in the company ten years later, his initial $77,500 investment was worth $770 million. He also made a lucky temporary investment in Adidas. In 1995 he was elected president of the World Federation of the Sporting Goods Industry, where he is now honorary president.
Among the individual companies and brands that received the Drapers Award this years, the retailer Schuh led with two wins, one as the best men’s footwear retailer in the U.K. and one as the best young fashion retailer. It was also a finalist for best chain retailer. It took two awards last year as well, for e-tailer and multiple retailer.
Several of this year’s winners showed up in other categories. Donaghys Shoes, the best independent retailer, was shortlisted for best family retailer, and the winner of that category, CF Hoad & Son, was a top contender for best comfort retailer. The best women’s retailer, Office, was among the top choices for best men’s retailer as well as best chain retailer. A full list of winners is below.
-Best Comfort Retailer: Footwise, in the Friary Center in Guildford, Surrey
-Best New Store: Black Truffle, Warren Street, London
-Best E-tailer: Asos
-Best Family Retailers: CF Hoad & Son, High Street, Sevenoaks, Kent
-Best Trendsetting Brand: Ugg
-Brand of the Year: Converse
-Best Kids’ Retailer: Hopscotch, Crossley Street, Wetherby, West Yorkshire
-Best Offer in a Fashion Multiple: New Look
-Best Men’s Retailer: Schuh
-Best Women’s Retailer: Office
-Best Value Retailer: Matalan
-Best Young Fashion Retailer: Schuh
-Best Ethical Retailer: Beyond Skin
-Best Multiple Retailer: Clarks
-Best Independent Retailer: Donaghys Shoes
Asos, the winner of the best e-tailer category, has really been booming lately. In the year to March 31, the revenues of this British e-commerce operator more than doubled, rising by 104 percent to £165 million (€187.4m-$262.4m). In the four weeks up to April 24, they grew by 80 percent compared with the same period in 2008 – for sales outside the U.K., revenues skyrocketed by 173 percent in the four weeks.
The asos.com site sells more than 21,300 branded and private label products, including footwear, and adds about 1,000 new lines each week. It has recently recruited Nick Beighton, previously of Matalan, to be its finance director.